Today is my parents’ first wedding anniversary since my mom died a few months ago. It’s also her birthday. Yes, my mom got married on her birthday. She never saw the point in two or three small celebrations when you could have one big blow out. She liked everyone together having a good time, and she loved presents more than a junky loves crank. At a celebration she turned into an eight-year-old girl, instead of an elderly woman who needed to tell you how terrible everything was.

If she were alive, my parents would have reached their 54th anniversary today. I’m not sure what I would have given them. There’s no traditional symbol for the 54th anniversary, unlike the 1st (paper), the 50th (gold), and the 10th (tin). By the way, modern gift-giving experts have redefined the 10th anniversary as diamond jewelry, which is a far better deal for the happily married couple. The 50th is gold and the 55th anniversary gift should be emerald, but my folks wouldn’t have quite reached 55 today. I might have given them gold rings with crappy emeralds to balance things out. I bet she would have loved hers, regardless.

One of the websites I checked for gift ideas threw tradition out the window and recommended that movies are an appropriate theme for the 54th anniversary. They suggested that a framed poster from the movie Dial M for Murder would be a great anniversary gift. I am not fucking kidding you; check out the link. In case you don’t remember, this is a movie about a guy planning to kill his wife.

My dad lives in the house they shared for 52 years. He spends a lot of time in their dim front room, where they sat side by side in recliners from WalMart for the past 20 years or so. When I visit him I sit in my mom’s recliner, which feels weird as hell, but that’s where he wants me to sit. Sometimes he tells funny stories I’ve never heard—whenever my mom was in the room it was hard for us to get in on the conversation. He cries sometimes. Sometimes we talk about work, or politics, or broken air conditioners. I haven’t visited him as much as I should, so I need to rectify that.

Sometimes my dad tells his version of stories that my mom told. My dad’s version doesn’t even resemble my mom’s version. I mean, it’s clear that they’re supposed to be about the same event, but things happen in different ways, different people are there, they may happen in different places, they may even happen two or three years apart. These events seemed a lot more interesting and dramatic the way my mom described them, so I suspect my dad’s versions are more accurate. I’m starting to feel that my past is far different from what I thought it was, and much more boring as well.

My mom would be 76 years old today had she lived. It’s a respectable age, but still a good ways short of the average life span. Her cause of death is a bit mysterious. Her doctor wrote “necrosis” on the death certificate, which basically means that your body died. I’ve considered going to his office to say, “Well, we could see that, motherfucker!” but I doubt that would improve anything except the tight muscle in my shoulder where I’ve been holding myself back from punching him in the throat.

So, Happy Anniversary and Happy Birthday, mom. Everything ends, but I’m thinking about you today, so I suppose it hasn’t quite ended yet.